Tue, Apr 14, 2009 - Page 12 News List

Giant expanding from bikes to travel firm

STAFF WRITER

Leading Taiwanese bicycle maker Giant Inc (巨大集團) plans to venture into the tourism industry with the opening of its first Giant travel agency next month in an attempt to promote bicycle travel in Taiwan, the Chinese-language Economic Daily News reported on Sunday.

Giant general manager John Ho (何友仁) told the paper on Saturday that the company had submitted an application to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) to operate a Class-A travel agency.

Ho said the new travel agency was initially expected to bring in more than NT$100 million (US$2.97 million) in annual revenue. But he said that what mattered most was not how much revenue the travel agency would generate, but Giant’s goal to make bicycle-riding a way of life.

As part of the company’s plan to tap the tourism market, the paper said Giant chairman King Liu (劉金標) would sign an agreement with the nation’s largest air carrier, China Airlines Ltd (CAL, 中華航空), which will offer discount bicycle shipping services to capture new business opportunities.

Aside from joining hands with China Airlines, Giant said it would continue to reinforce its collaboration with Lion Travel Service Co (雄獅旅行社). Giant is now in charge of Lion Travel Service’s bicycle tour programs.

Moreover, Giant is eyeing business opportunities brought by an increasing number of tourists who travel across the Taiwan Strait via a third destination, and plans to offer two-day-one-night bike tours between Kinmen and Xiamen in the second half of this year.

Fueled by the growing popularity of cycling, Giant sold 390,000 bicycles in Taiwan last year, with about NT$4 billion in sales. The company’s sales last year were up by 140 percent compared with its performance in 2007, when the company sold 230,000 bicycles and reported sales of NT$1.65 billion.

Taichung-based Giant expects sales of bicycles to drop to about 350,000 units this year because of the economic downturn.

Ho said Giant had nearly completed its deployment of sales channels in Taiwan, and would focus on bicycle rental stores in the future. Among Giant’s 350 sales locations across the nation, Giant operates 42 directly. The company will keep its number of stores below 50, he said.

Giant has 12 bicycle rental stores in Taiwan, and plans to increase this number to at least 50 in a bid to form a complete bicycle rental network.

Meanwhile, Pingtung County-based Yoho Bike Hotel (悠活單車旅館), a joint venture between Giant and Yoho Beach Club and Spa (悠活麗緻渡假村), plans to cooperate with at least 30 hotels within five years to promote bike tourism, Yoho chairman Tseng Chung-shin (曾忠信) told the paper on Saturday.

Yoho Bike Hotel, with 68 rooms, is the nation’s first bike hotel.

Tseng said the hotel’s occupancy rate had exceeded 75 percent since it opened last month, which showed that the market accepts its business model.

Of the 68 rooms, 30 percent are reserved for the use of foreign tourists. These rooms have been fully booked until the end of this month, with the majority of bike travel groups coming from Hong Kong, Tseng said, adding that Taiwan’s plan to build itself into a bicycle-friendly country has begun to attract international attention.

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